Najib trial off, but Adib inquest on

I was looking forward to the trial of former prime minister Najib Razak, scheduled to begin today, on seven charges relating to money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abuse of power but it appears that you and I will have to wait awhile.

This is because the Court of Appeal yesterday allowed Najib’s application to postpone his trial on the seven charges linked to SRC International Sdn Bhd.

The date of the trial will be fixed after the outcome of Najib’s challenge against the attorney-general’s withdrawal of his certificate to transfer the charges against the former prime minister from the Sessions Court to the High Court.

After the transfer certificate was withdrawn, High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali used his discretion, under Section 417 of the Criminal Procedure Code, to transfer the cases back to his court for him to preside over the trial.

Najib’s lead counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah protested at the Court of Appeal, saying it was wrong to withdraw the certificate and that Nazlan should have left it to the registry to decide which High Court judge should hear the transfer of the cases.

Najib’s trial is one of the most anticipated court cases in our history.

The seven charges, however, do not involve 1Malaysia Development Bhd. They involve SRC International, a subsidiary of 1MDB before it was taken over by the finance ministry.

Cases against Najib relating to 1MDB are expected to come later for hearing.

While the seven charges against Najib make this a historic case, another factor adds to its importance: SRC’s primary funding of RM4 billion came from Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) or Retirement Fund Inc in English.

As Malaysia’s largest public services pension fund, KWAP carries the hopes of the nation’s 1.6 million civil servants. And surely they will want to know if someone has been misusing the fund.

On July 4, Najib was charged with three counts of CBT and one count of abuse of power in relation to the use of funds from SRC totalling RM42 million. On Aug 8, he was charged with three counts of money laundering in relation to SRC and the same amount.

SRC was established by Najib’s government in 2011 to pursue strategic overseas investments in energy resources.

The prosecution wants to prove that RM42 million of the RM4 billion was siphoned off and placed in Najib’s personal accounts between 2014 and 2015. Najib has denied this and will seek to prove his innocence.

Earlier reports had mentioned allegations that former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail was removed in July 2015 because he was finalising charges against Najib related to the SRC funds.

I hope that in the course of the trial, we may get to know the real story behind the termination of the service of Gani and also the reason for the disbandment of the high-powered special task force set up to investigate the 1MDB issue. The official version is that Gani lost his job due to “health” reasons.

The task force, headed by Gani, included then Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, then inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar, and then Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Abu Kassim Mohamed.

Abu Kassim and Gani have been reported as playing key roles in the new government’s probe into 1MDB.

I hope Gani, Abu Kassim and Zeti are called as witnesses. I wonder if Khalid will be taking the stand. That would be very interesting indeed.

And will Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown take the witness stand? I hope so as I want to know if the murder of senior deputy public prosecutor Kevin Morais had anything to do with the1MDB scandal. This is because Rewcastle-Brown had claimed last year that it was Morais who had leaked information about the probe into SRC International and an alleged charge sheet against Najib.

Morais’ brother Charles had claimed in a statutory declaration that his brother had drafted the charge sheet against Najib and that he had sent copies of the charge sheet to Rewcastle-Brown.

Morais was reported to have been kidnapped on Sept 4, 2015, strangled to death, and placed in a drum filled with concrete in Subang Jaya.

Seven people have since been charged with the murder of Morais and one of them has implicated Najib. The former Umno president, however, has denied this accusation.

The trial would also likely establish whether money from SRC International actually went into Najib’s accounts as alleged, and if so, why.

If the court finds Najib innocent, I expect him to return to politics with a vengeance. Already he is proving to be Mr Opposition, putting the presidents of Umno, PAS, MCA and MIC to shame.

Another matter of immense interest to Malaysians started yesterday in the courts: the inquest into the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

I do not envy Sessions Court judge Rofiah Mohamad who is sitting as a coroner to conduct the inquest, for this is no ordinary inquest.

For one, it involves the death of a fireman who was allegedly assaulted by a mob. For another, the tragedy has left a bad taste in the mouth. Racial tensions spiked because he was a Malay and those alleged to have harmed him were thought to be Indians rioting outside the Seafield Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Subang Jaya.

And I am hoping that the inquest will answer the questions on the minds of all Malaysians, especially that regarding the cause of Adib’s death.

Questions that I hope will be answered include: How did Adib die? Did anyone see him being assaulted? If so, who assaulted him? What security measures were in place on the second night, when Adib was allegedly assaulted, after the flare-up the first night? Who stood to gain in a racial clash? Was there a hidden hand behind this occurrence? Why would anyone attack firemen who had come to put out fires? Who took Adib to the hospital? How come the firemen left the scene of the chaos without Adib? Don’t firemen do a headcount to see if all their personnel are safe?

I hope these and other questions relating to the incident will be answered so that the police can act against the guilty parties and ensure justice is served. I hope, too, that the findings of the inquest will invigorate the authorities to take measures to prevent another similar occurrence.

A Kathirasen is executive editor at FMT.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.